Our Miss A. is in need of a new, more grown-up desk, and her old desk will be going to the twins. As she's reached the grand age of eight, a new favourite colour has emerged - blue. Currently I have a new favourite store in the UK called Made and they has have the most fabulous (modern) items on offer and I am seriously thinking that this Cornell desk in Robin Egg Blue just could be the winner for our girl.
I like the sleek design and the soft curves of the desk, yet at the same time it's not the most practical for a young girl who has a lot of stuff, but I am hoping that she would be able to keep the desk clean and manage her stuff collection, but a little help from some sort of additional storage just might be needed...
When we lived in California we loved the Safari West visit we did in the wine country, and thought that we should check out the local offerings for wild animals parks. I found out that the Aspinall Foundation has two parks nearby - Port Lympne and Howletts, and the first destination for us was Port Lympne by the seaside. There is no single ticket, but an annual one, so we chose tickets that cover both parks as the price difference wasn't much - therefore a Howletts visit will be going into the calendar also.
The setting of the park is beautiful - forests full of bluebells this time of the year, fields - or rather they have been made to reminiscence savanna. You see Rhinos grazing under blooming English trees. Very pretty, but a bit surreal at the same time! And it was so heartwarming to see my twins for once not fighting, but enjoiyng the place together, walking hand in hand.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the manor inside the park as I am huge fan of pretty houses and gardens. One cannot visit the house (but it can be hired for functions) but parts of the garden - including a fun maze were open to the public.
The park has a couple of routes to enjoy - walking loops and a safari ride (but be prepared to queue about an half and hour for the latter).Some of the pros of the park are the large enclosures for the animals, but it als becomes a con as it's hard to find many of them. The facilities are also good, and there are a few strategically positions playgrounds also, where kids can play and parents can recharge their batteries with a cup of coffee or food.
I asked our kids what they thought of the place and the feedback was good. The favourite animals were all different kind of monkeys, the playgrounds and the ice cream! There were no complaints despite us walking around some two good hours (but they all fell asleep in the car so it was good exercise clearly for them) and mom got to enjoy some gardens and pretty scenery too. So a great day (weather-wise also) and we'll be back later on this summer as we now have annual passes.
Tagged with: England, Days Out, Kent, fun with kids, Safari Park, Port Lympne, Hythe
National Trust is relaunching today, May 2nd, their "50 Things to do Before you are 11 3/4 -booklet" for children. Our kids (and especially Miss A. who already has turned eight) have been working hard on their old booklets and loved doing so - and I can reveal that the new book will be even more fun as we've had a sneak peak on it.
This new booklet, titled, "My Adventure Scrapbook" has had 15 new fun activities added to it, it contains better instructions on how to complete tasks, and there is more space to record the tasks. Also the rewards stickers are nicer, and more importantly I hope that they will distribute them with instructions to all properties as we had sometimes hard time collecting those completion stickers when we were out and about in different NT properties.
I also like the new regional summary sheets they have done: this sheets tells you all the National Trust properties in your area and what tasks you can complete there: either independently or by joining their organised events. And since this is the digital age, the National Trust also has a website where one can log all adventures as well as unlock additional secret challenges.
That said, I certainly hope that more parents will find out about this fun programme and encourage their kids to join in with the fun: discover these fabulous properties, learn about the history of the places, complete some fun tasks and while doing and as an additional benefit they'll spend more time outdoors too. I think it's obvious from previous posts that I am a huge fan of National Trust and other historic houses and gardens, and very happy that my children seem to share the same joy of exploring them! Now are you ready to introduce this fun programme to your children or someone you know?
A sneak peek into the look and feel of the relaunched 50 Things to Do -programme. We got the "recipe" for mud pies so that's going to be on our agenda this weekend. First one for this mom also, maybe I'll earn a sticker too!
Our little Miss C. got cracking with task no 41 - Plant it, grow it, eat it. Let's hope we'll have something to eat in a couple of months time!
First batch of seeds planted and time to water them. Guess who was enjoying this task tremendously. And tomorrow is the turn for Mr H. to plant some peas in his garden area...
Tagged with: planting, Fun Stuff, grow your own, national trust, kids in the garden, 50 things to do campaign
I have always wondered if these old and wonky-looking houses were like that from the inside too, and at least this was really was: floors going up and down, lots of low beams and charm. We picked a little different kind of destination today: Smallhythe Place (also a National Trust property) - a 16th-century cottage that actress Ellen Terry purchased in 1899, and which now is filled with her memorabilia.
This little cottage next to an old, and as impressive church also has cute lite grounds where spring flowers were coming up from hyacinths to daffodils. Beautiful countryside stretching out, sheep, sunshine - it was a lovely afternoon. And the delight of the day for the kids was the Easter Egg Hunt, which made them run around the grounds looking for clues.
I also like the fact that they had worksheets for kids in the house (and they got cute little bookmarks as rewards): questions for older and picture sheets of each room for the little ones - a great way to engage the kids and have them to learn something on the side too. Thank you Smallhythe Place for this lovely afternoon! Maybe we will be back one day for one of the theatre shows in the revived theatre barn on the grounds...
Tagged with: uk, History, Easter Egg Hunt, gardens, Kent, Smallhythe Place, National Trust Property, Ellen Terry actress
It is, once again, time to make a house into a home. We have now done a full circle and returned back to the original House of Anaïs. Except this time the kids have grown so much that the house is just too small: for me it spells as in minimising everything and keeping lots of stuff in boxes (and potentially getting rid of them).
We decided to change the room order and gave the twins the master bedroom, which also will function as a playroom (not ideal as I like to keep the bedroom for sleeping mainly, but can't help it now). Here's the scoop what old, what's new or brought from other rooms to this room: Miss C. gets to sleep in her brother's trundle bed, so her little bed is out of the picture now. The Ikea storage unit from the playroom is also here, as it similar low unit from living room. I also had to cut down the number of toys in the room, but I think that is only good as I believe in periodically changing the toys anyway and giving children the opportunity to rediscover their things - that also reduces the requests for new things!
The new fresh addition to the room are the polka dot curtains and matching storage cubes from the Great Little Trading Company. I have also added some spring-fresh bunting in the window. A bit girlish maybe, but it will do - I have never stuck to the "girls and boys colours" strictly anyway, but aimed to just bring lots of colour to the room. And the room still has dinosaur bedding and car rugs too...
I have also aimed to divide the room into the central play area, a"home corner" and the crafting table in the other corner. It also great that we at least have a bathroom attached to the bedroom, so accidents are less likely to happen. We are all pretty happy with the outcome and I'd love to hear what you think about this girl-boy combo room?
New polka dots curtains and storage cubes works well with the old Ikea unit
The bedroom needs to act as play room also - the toys are still stored the same way (but I still have some missing baskets as there are so many boxes to open). The table for activities got a corner position but lighting is good so it won't matter too much
This view shows most of the room - it obviously helps that the room has nice proportions
The other corner functions as "home play" area with a little kitchen, vacuum, broom and baby things
I made the "dramatic" decision of using just one bed and having the other twin sleep in the trundle bed in order to save space. The centre of the room is occupied by the train/multi-function storage table
There is a cozy little en-suite also for the kids, although a bath tub would have been nice
Tagged with: bedroom, moving, England, curtains, playroom, bunting, Kids Room, Storage Cubes, Great Little Trading Company
I must admit that the Easter sort of slipped by as we just moved house yesterday. I still got 200+ boxes to open and just could not locate my Easter decoration. The store was out of any kind of Easter eggs, but luckily I had at least bought some chocolate bunnies in advance for the kids. Truth be told, I think it was me who was more upset of not getting the Cadbury's Cream Eggs than the kids!
Anyway, we did a little Easter Egg hunt of our own once the snowing stopped - yes, can you imagine sub-zero temperature and snowing in England on March 31st - I certainly was not prepared for it. I mean it's warmer in Finland than here. Talk about global warming...
So each child had their own trail with further stops hidden inside the plastic eggs - colour-coded for each child as they had same pit-stops during the course. Oh it was so much fun for everyone. Little, simple things bring lots of happiness.
The rewards are waiting for egg hunters - Lindt Easter Bunnies and Sheep
These little egg hunters are ready!
We made tailored clues for each child - pictures for the twins and a trail map for Miss A.
Miss A. and her map
I spy the rack and my first eggs
Miss A. looking very determined
Looking for these maybe?
...and then happy after collecting her clues in eggs
Ok, which tree would this be?
Miss C. in the hideaway under the trees collecting her first eggs and the next clue
Now where is the circle?
Miss C. on a mission to find her tree
This is it - last clue collected. Ready to collect my choco bunny!
Tagged with: riddles, Easter Egg Hunt, outdoor fun, kid time, Lindt chocolates
Easter is almost here and the kids are chasing Easter bunnies, but in case they don't manage to befriend a little bunny in the garden, I have some chocolate ones waiting for them instead... And of course we'll be having an Easter egg with mini bunnies as rewards - and it's going to be in the original House of Anaïs as we get to move back in there for the Easter. It's going to be so lovely!
Our kids asked today if they could have a horse. Of course, I said. Something like the ones you were riding last summer...the wooden ones! Thinking of those horses made me remember the old kiddie rhyme they used to love: ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross...oh sweet memories!
Little bees buzzing - it's the English Mothers Day! We've got wellies at school, at the boot of my Land Rover, at the tractor shed - and now also on the table filled with flowers. We not live in the countryside and seem to be getting suitable-for-the-theme presents. The same way at the school parking lot it's not the Jimmy Choos that take the centrepiece, but wellies. Mud and puddles, boys playing rugby and girls hockey wellies are essential. Yes, I live in the wellies world!
And therefore, I guess it is obvious that mom got wellies on her day too. I think I'll continue with the theme and ask for a boot rack for the house entrance as my birthday present for all the wellies we got...So all the Mother's in England - I hope you had a great Mothers Day and also got fabulous DIY presents from your little ones like I did!
Miss Anaïs is turning years today: last year we had a lovely party with flowers, balloons, the whole works and it was a lot of fun. This year we are talking about a pop-up party in the hotel - the lack of time and space meant more improvising and less of a fancy set-up. But it seems that maybe it's me who minds it more than the birthday girl, who just asked for one present, a card and a little cake. And she certainty got it -and more (which in turn created a happy mother whose daughter couldn't believe her eyes and wondered how her supermom had time to get all the lovely things she did). Oh the power of sincere thank yous!
Our pop-party was such a great success - talk about decor for under 2 pounds (3 USD), the entertainment being the birthday girl creating balloon figures and organising little party games and food-wise a balanced selection by Miss A. of sugar snap peas, fruits, raspberry sponge cake and some small sweet treats! The topping on the cake was a video call to the grandparents abroad to show her present - ear piercings - and to "virtually" receive her birthday present (until we get to visit Spain next time), as well as a virtual toast of smoothies.
Even the party frock was thrown aside in favour of the new school hockey outfit (hockey being a new favourite sport where she already played her first match this week!). Happy kids literally fell asleep after the party with their glow-stick bangles giving special effects for their room. All I can think of is the study rule that we all learned in out early school days: KISS - keep it simple, stupid - it's easy to create happiness for kids with little effort (and minimal budget)!
All she asked for was one thing, but she got a little bit more!
New friends at school got cupcakes - and she got a bunch of cards and little presents. It was pure happiness in the eyes when she was telling about her day at school
Our little hotel party set-up
The party entertainer proudly showing her new hockey kit
Health and happiness. If someone asks me whether this trip was worth it, already on day one I'll say it definitely was. It might have take nearly 40 hours to reach Philippines from not-so-distant China, but the sheer joy of my kids certainly overwrites those memories (and it wasn't that bad anyway - it's not like we had to sleep at the airport, be cold or without food like sometimes happens to people who travel).
My son has even stopped coughing again - the so-called "Beijing lungs" returned pretty quick after the Bali "cleansing" trip in December following those record-breaking (sadly not in an good sense) pollution days - but just one night in Philippines seems to have wiped it all away again!
A day of swimming between the pool and beach, watching cartoons from the bathtub, fun time at kids play area and an afternoon nap outside. It was simple but pure #happiness. I hope there is much more of that to come. What was your moment of #happiness today?
pure joy and #happiness
#happiness is a nap with a friend - the Red firetruck
#happiness of finding a play area and learning new skills
Tagged with: Travel, Philippines, Cebu, fun with kids, daily inspiration
I have complained before about the bad air of Beijing, but never has it been this bad: this evening the level hit 755! For the sake of comparison at the same time London air was nice 15 and in Finland below 10... At 300 the children cannot go out at school breaks and reading above 110 is already impacting those with asthma.
So we were literally prisoners of our home today, and what better than little crafting projects on days like that! My girls were making some arts with their hand and feet and seaside-inspired stamps. And the outcome will of course go on the wall. Next time thought I think we first use a rolled and give the background a light blue tint or something. Live and learn is what I say!
Finished piece d'art: hadnprints, footprints, seaside themes...and lots of fun in creating it!
This is how it starts - little artist working
Here we go!
...and then stamping
Snow has that magical effect - those first flakes falling down, the soft white quilt covering the ground and the trees... We've been enjoying a few days of snow already, and yes, it's definitely feeling more Christmas-sy. This morning the kids even skied to the school bus - and would have liked ski all the way to the school. Way to go!
Add some gingerbread, gold coins, Christmas cards. The fire is on, a slide of Italian Christmas delicatessen - panettone - is on my plate along with a cup of mulled wines. Kids are singing Christmas carols. 10 days to go!
10 minutes after this got placed on the table I head" Mom, can we eat it now!" No sweetie, let mommy at least take a picture first...
...the side view...
...and Mr Santa on the front. Today here, tomorrow maybe gone...
Opa Beijing style. Note the lovely broom, made out of flowers and twigs. Not for rigorous sweeping - mine flew over the fall when I was trying to speed-sweet and burn some calories...
This ski patrol did not want to stop skiing even though it got dark!
Faster, run faster!
Yes, it's getting white everywhere
A walk in the snow would be great now
Tagged with: kids, decor, snow, gingerbread house, feeling Christmas
It might not be Friday yet, but this certainly is one curious Friday story. It start with a pretty little tube - containing the first ever school picture with all our children in it (alongside with some thousand other kids). So I started to open it, roll it open, and some more, and some more...
In the end I was thinking, yes it's cute but honey, we need a room for the photo! I am not sure if we have too many uninterrupted walls without windows or something else for a school photo sized at 3m (nearly 10ft) x 30cm (1ft). And don't even start talking about framing the photo! Here in China things certainly are done differently - sometimes on purpose, more often accidentally...wonder into which category this photo falls into?
Oh mine, 9ft more than last year - this is not going to be hung next to last year's photo. And it took me 5 minutes to spot all my kids in this photo too!
Today I was going to post about our lovely little Christmas tree that we decorated with silver birds, reindeer and stars, glittery icicles and other cute things in theme of silver and white. But before I managed to take the picture, the attached lights started malfunctioning, and the dear husband tried to fix them - and managed to break the base of the tree. So out came the decorations, and the poor tree shall we recycled to tree-less backyard with outdoor lights (as the base can be poshed into the grass).
And now we are looking with kids an alternative activity for the day - such as crafting a cute little table-top tree from egg cartons... albeit these look a bit challenging for the 3-7 age group, but one can always try...
Cute idea of glittery table-top egg carton trees with step-by-step guide from Shakti Dove
We got some egg cartons stashed away, but sadly not enought to try to this fabulous tree...
Tagged with: decor, interior, Christmas decor, fun with kids, egg cartons
It's shoe box time. As our kids now go to an English school, they follow the English tradition of making shoe boxes for kids around the world who are less well off. As there is plenty of poverty in China, our school will be sending the shoe boxes to needy children in Beijing. The appeal comes with a basic wish list. where one can then add some additional items, but considering the weather here our wish list included mittens, hat and s scarf, tooth brush and toothpaste, crayons and a note book, bag of candy and some toy for the child. The hardest part was to find warm mittens and things without having to pay a fortune (a store nearby us had hats priced at $40 USD/25GBP which is just ridiculous when even the Target in US sometimes had those items in their dollar bins and their work fine unless it's really - I should know as my son still happily wears his blue bear mittens).
As we moved not long ago I did a good spring clean and got rid of all the shoe boxes, so we used old gift bags instead. But I am thinking that it would have been hard to fit much stuff besides the clothing in a little shoe box! So here are our shoe boxes, but together with a lot of though and love from the kids, and their contents were done for kids to similar ages of their own. My guess is that some of you may recognize some items here from earlier posts - we ransacked my "gift reserves", which included excess goody bag items from previous parties - such as the cute little tote bags, silly bands and creepy crawlers!
The kids also wanted to add their little "customised" present - so they created a crafting kit full of different materials. We are hoping that the kids who received these packages will have fun time with those, as families who struggle to even clothe and feed themselves most likely have never had money to buy supplies - and the kids very likely have not had a change to do much, if any, crafting before.
Tigger is a winner in the box of Master H. There is also a Lighting McQueen plate covered by creepy crawlers and play dough
The box of Miss C. Comes with a cuddly blanket and a pink unicorn. Added fun factor for a little girl from a pink wand and hair clips
The box of Miss A. for a girl between 6-9 years old. Main attraction build-a-bear set, cute little storage container and lots of stationary
one, two, three - our "shoe boxes" are ready to go to school for collection!
I can't help it. Light and decorations in winter bring some happiness to the darkness for us, so I'll be talking about Christmas themes quite a lot these coming weeks! Thus said here's our masterpiece of a tree for this year - in red, white and gold.
It feels so nice to turn off the room light, turn on the tree, have some mellow music and just relax and look at the decorating shimmering in the tree...
Our tree of red, white and gold is up thanks to our eager little helpers. And we only have broke one ball by far
Little helpers at work. Somehow the bottom of the tree has the most decorations now...
Tagged with: red, decorating, christmas, deck the halls, family fun, white and gold scheme
Crafting, painting, cooking, swimming, musicals - this dark season is the time for all artistic and indoor-sy expressions. We've certainly started strongly for over the weekend we've been painting canvases (as the resident artist never seemed to have time to put those canvases into good use), created Christmas decorations of all sorts and practised Christmas songs in various languages/ We've a;sp learned to make mini pizza faces as master Hugo borrowed a kids cook book from the school library and insisted on the pizza faces- and finally today we've seen the school musical called Ocean Commotion where Miss A. was a shiny little herring. So much fun, but also tiring as this little herring fell asleep in record time of under two minutes!
I hope you get some fun ideas from these, or can share other great ideas with us as there certainly are plenty of cold and dark days to come and new ideas would be highly appreciated...
Our sparkly herring in the Ocean Commotion - musical
Guess who loves gluing...
Creating felt tree decorations and learning to stitch
His and hers traditional Finnish Christmas decorations - angels, elves and Christmas tree ornaments
Making yummy and fun pizza faces
What is Christmas without red hearts. We heart Xmas...
Guess the favourite colour of this little 'Picasso"...
Happy flowers for the girls!
Tagged with: christmas decorations, cooking together, painting canvases, kids musicals
First it was just Miss A., but now it is all my three kids - wanting to bake and cook. Little Hugo borrowed this week from school the kids first cook book and wants to make pizza faces. Miss C. is talking about muffins and Miss A. is writing down a full three-course menu with a couple of starters and main course options. It clearly is the season for baking and cooking!
I am no Nigella in the kitchen, but with recipes I can normally have a pretty good success rate. And I have a bunch of recipes I've been making for years and years, and decided that we can start with something very fast and easy. Now if you recall Miss A. already did with the help of the twins some very yummy banana bread, so these traditional English scones were an easy feat for the too - a little bit small in size, but very tasty. I wonder if we would manage to make some real clotted cream next time too. Now we are ready for the next dish, and maybe by Christmas my little chefs can whip up a whole high tea or so...
It's nearly time for Halloween. Surprisingly it has spread also to China - at least among us foreigners and so there are a couple of party options to choose from. And I've got couple of little pumpkins we can carve, so this year we will have a Chinese Halloween. Very exciting!
These beautiful images come from California and Half Moon Bay, which is an area know for having plenty of pretty pumpkin patches, haunted houses and rides this time of the year. And even better, one can do a stroll on the beach, do some kids activities and enjoy a lovely lunch with some shopping in the pretty little downtown of Half Moon Bay - a perfect day for the whole family.
Tagged with: halloween, pumpkins, Haunted House, fun things to do, hay rides
We've had yet another busy start for the weekend - first the kids school had the International Day. It started with a parade of well over 1000 children showing the national costumes or the colours of their country. Pretty impressive - I just loved the Korean girls with the beautiful dresses and was thinking that I'd love to have one too!
Different countries had organised for other kids dance shows and other entertainment, and parents were working on country booths telling about their countries, displaying typical items and having little food tasters and activities. Of course this is where our Angry Birds game also was used, representing the image of the "modern day " Finland. Some countries, like China had even a chef cutting Peking duck - it was just amazing. Decor-wise the good old Union Jack still looks so cute to me - I just love all things Union Jack. That said, enjoy the colourful images of this wonderful International Day!
Tagged with: China, Beijing, fun things, international school, day of celebration
So things don't always go as planned, or rather things often don't go as planned - at least in our household (but that doesn't have to be a bad thing). This week I had volunteered to build with the kids an Angry Birds game for the school's international day - representing this time from our collection of nationalities and home countries my birth place, that arctic Northern place called Finland - now better known as the birth place of some very angry birds also...
Before I tried cutting any cardboard I had a beautiful vision of a game-like multi-level structure built out of boxes, but the reality was that my over-sized super-strong scissors still barely were able to cut these boxes and a saw would have been more appropriate. Of course for the house move they were the perfect item, but this did not pan out for my bird dream. So a few holes later we had one over-sized wardrobe-box plastered with bunch of bird pictures and flags (and by the way, if you didn't know yet what the flag of Finland looks like I challenge you to guess which one(s) I am talking about).
All in kids kids loved cutting, colouring and glueing, this mom didn't quite enjoy her taping and hole-tearing and the outcome in at best "interesting", but it works (kid tested and gave a lot of joy and laughter). I was a bit hasty to snap a picture before the currently sleeping beauty Miss A. finished her last flag (South Africa), so yes, we not we are still missing some black colour there... We'll see how the other kids at school like this, but I'd recoomend it as a home party fun - and the added benefit on this particular version was that they kids got to know a few new flags too (but maybe use a less sturdy box unless you want the game to last for a year or two!).
Tagged with: China, Finland, Fun Stuff, crafting, Angry Birds, school events, International Day, manual games
Today I took Miss A. for a little adventure - or so we had hoped at least. I had fun anyway, but she was left wanting more of the rock-climbing type experience, which seemed now to be forbidden in the place we went to (or maybe we are just the only silly ones who actually obey every sign posted...). Anyway, we headed for a site called Guyaju - or Ancient Cliff House, located in a Beijing region called Yanqing; north of the city by the mountains (about 1.5-2 hour drive depending of the traffic).
It's a beautiful and vey scenic spot, and cleary real estate developers have realised it too as right next to a large Montana-style development called and it was advertissing another one called Mendocino (like the one in California). This site is only ranked 3 stars in the Chinese system, and that probably explains the lack of any kind of signs leading to the location - and the entrance area is so small that it is easy to miss...
Anyway, it seems that the protection of the site is more strict now and we didn't get to do climbing to the higher caves like we had expected - but that doesn't recode the unique value of this site. There isn't much else to see here though, so 1.5 -2 hours should be more than enough to walk around the loop, stop for a snack and explore those coves open for public.
Quite a few dwellings!
Address: Dongmenying Village, Zhangshanying Town, Yanqing County - 延庆县张山营镇东门营村. Tel. 010-6911 0333. Opening hours: 7-19. Entrance fee 40 RMB (2012)
Note though that there is no restaurant or typical vendors other than a few locals selling their fruit and nuts at the parking lot.We were disappointed that there was no climbing allowed like we had anticipated, but the beginning of the loop path gives some exploring opportunities. A fun two hours!"
Tagged with: China, Beijing, kids, adventure, Fun Stuff, Guyaju, Ancient Cliff Dwellings
Miss A. is so full of energy and wanting to learn things, so I am collecting fun ideas to choose from for the cold, rainy winter days. This step-by-step tutorial for a cool hanging storage is definitely going to our top-ten list.
The instructions are in Finnish, but luckily Google translate can give you pretty accurate instructions if the pictures are not enough to guide you through (instructions here from Pikku Pihlaja). If you end up crafting one of these I'd love to see your fabric choices!